By Marlene Holmquist
The morning of June 9, 2015, was filled with more anticipatory butterflies than I could have ever imagined. In less than 12 hours, I was to experience the thrill of riding horseback across Hyde Park in London, see the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, and feel the overwhelming awe of the play Warhorse at The New London Theatre. That was a bucket list ‘horse day’ for this cowgirl!
According to Wikipedia, a mews is “a row or courtyard of stables and carriage houses with living quarters above them, built behind large city houses before motor vehicles replaced horses in the early 20th century.” London still has rows of mews right in the middle of the bustling city, as you can see in the photo of us saddling up before we took our ride. The feeling of imagining others doing the same thing, in the same place hundreds of years ago, actually gave me goosebumps.
In 1989, U.S. real estate developer Karl Nilson coined the term “Barndominium” (the modern-day mews) as he planned a development to convert horse barns into homes. In the last 10-12 years, the concept has again gained momentum, as has barnwood for flooring and furniture. Even if you do not own a horse to stable on the first floor, the convenience of a combined-use residence provides function and economy.
Right now, today, we are creating our own history here in San Juan Capistrano. Ranches have gradually disappeared but our love for horses has never waned. California alone has over 700,000 of them. And surprisingly, only 28% of horse owners have a salary of over $100,000. Fifty miles of horse and biking trails, our existing and planned horse stables, and the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park with its myriad of horse events, keeps our standing as “The Horse Capital of the West Coast,” strong. Winston Churchill once famously stated, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someday in the future San Juan Capistrano became the mews capital too?
Marlene Holmquist, ASID, owns Luxury Ranch Interior Design, a full-service interior design company specializing in remodels for residences and small businesses. An avid equestrian known as “The Cowgirl Designer,” she is a member of the San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition and Las Vaqueras Women’s Riding Club. luxury-ranch.com or thecowgirldesigner.com.